This Ottolenghi club meeting, I made a recipe requested by our host Alice. She'd been browsing recent articles about Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's new book Sweet, and coveting what is alleged to be the world's best chocolate cake. Alice's oven doesn't currently work and I was glad to supply the cake she craved.
Happily, the world's best chocolate cake isn't the world's most laborious chocolate cake! In fact, you don't even have to cream room-temperature butter and sugar in this version. The process reminded me more of some brownies I've baked, where the butter is melted and everything can be whisked and sifted directly into the saucepan. The two optional (but enthusiastically requested) accompaniments come together just as breezily: the chocolate topping is a one-saucepan ganache (although the recipe also includes a bizarre food-processor technique), and the espresso mascarpone can be whipped in a bowl by hand or briefly with an electric beater. I had both mixtures ready to go in less time than it took the cake to bake.
And how about that tentative "world's best" claim? Well, I can't be sure that it's not the world's best chocolate cake, because I can't recall eating a better one myself. The cake stands tall and dark, with a moist, melt-in-the-mouth medium density. It contains more than a cup of espresso, but that only serves to liven the chocolate flavour and doesn't create an explicit coffee taste. That's in the complex, grainy mascarpone, along with vanilla and cinnamon (incidentally, a half-quantity of this is just about enough to go around).
After a couple of hours in the fridge the cake changes, of course - it's firmer, denser, and the subtler flavours were lost to me. I'd recommend gathering some friends and getting as much enjoyment from this cake as you can during its first few hours out of the oven.
(And if you're after a vegan alternative, my best offering is this recipe.)
Brownie-style chocolate cake with espresso mascarpone
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Helen Goh and published in good food)
350mL espresso coffee
200g dark chocolate
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
240g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
200mL heavy cream
3 teaspoons golden syrup
3 teaspoons butter
200g dark chocolate
375mL heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons ground espresso
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat an oven to 170°C. Line a 23cm diameter springform cake tin with paper and spary it with oil.
Heat the espresso in a large saucepan, and add the butter. When the butter is completely melted, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring continuously until it is melted through. Whisk in the sugar until it's dissolved. Check the bottom of the saucepan and allow it to cool a little if it's still hot. When the mixture is just gently warm, whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift over the flour, cocoa and salt, then stir everything together to combine. Pour the cake batter into the springform tin, and bake it for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for around 20 minutes, before removing the edge. It's gonna have deep cracks; don't worry about 'em!
To prepare the ganache, place the cream, golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cream starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until the ingredients are well combined and silky smooth. Allow the ganache to cool a little, then place plastic wrap on its surface.
To prepare the espresso mascarpone, whip together all the ingredients with a whisk or an electric beater, until soft peaks form.
To serve, transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Spread over the ganache and serve the espresso mascarpone on the side.